What had been a superb season for Sheena Johnson exploded into a stunning one in fewer than 53 seconds this afternoon at Alex G. Spanos Sports Complex.
Johnson (Gar-Field High) not only earned a ticket to the Summer Games by winning the women's 400-meter hurdles final at the U.S. Olympic trials in track and field, she also posted a time that makes her an immediate medal favorite and outside gold medal contender.
Her finish in 52.95 seconds was only the second mark in the last five years under 53 seconds. The world record (52.34) was set by Russian Yuliya Pechenkina last season.
Johnson, who won four events at the Virginia state championships in 2000, leaped into the international scene at just the right time. She ended last season ranked fifth in the United States. She graduated from UCLA this spring and trains in Los Angeles.
"I didn't really believe I was going to go that fast," she said. "The plan was to go out fast to the first 200, then at the eighth hurdle it was all out. I knew we'd all have to run a PR to make the team."
At the Summer Games, Johnson will have to contend with Pechenkina and Australia's Jana Pittman, whose best time this year is 53.52.
Personal Best for Hurd
Upper Marlboro's Tiombe Hurd isn't new to winning national titles in the triple jump -- she has won six of them.
Sunday, though, Hurd didn't merely win. She leaped a personal best of 47 feet 5 inches, both setting an American record and achieving the Olympic "A" qualifying standard to secure a place on the U.S. team.
Hurd won the U.S. trials in 2000, but she could not go to Sydney because she never achieved the qualifying standard.
"I'm sorry, I can't stop crying," Hurd said, choking back tears. "I can't explain the way it feels the moment you find out you're an Olympian. I'm so excited."
Hurd said she was concerned she had tired herself out by traveling to a meet in Italy last week, hoping to achieve the standard before the trials. She also said she was unnerved by the fact that she fouled on her first two jumps Sunday.
"On the third one, I just jogged down there and took off about a foot behind the board," she said.
Harrison Brothers Advance
Calvin Harrison, facing a two-year ban for a positive test for a stimulant, and twin brother Alvin, facing a lifetime ban for alleged drug violations, both advanced in the qualifying rounds of the 400. Calvin Harrison finished first in his heat in 45.22 seconds, the second-best time of the day. Alvin finished fourth in his heat in 45.43, 13th best.
Alvin Harrison declined to talk to reporters, but Calvin said he was unconcerned about whether the drug charges from the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency could prevent them from going to Athens.
"I'll be eligible," Calvin Harrison said. "Everything will be okay. Everything's all right. I don't feel like discussing anything controversial, because I'm not a controversial guy."